How to Survive a Layoff Early in Your Career
Say that one morning, you come into the office and attend your meeting as usual. When you dash for the exit after enduring rounds of boring status updates, you are stopped by the HR manager. You know something is wrong. When you’re told that due to corporate restructure, your position will be eliminated, your heart drops. The peachy glow on your face suddenly turns into a sickly white. I ended up interviewing with almost 40 companies and landed a job exactly two months later. Here are a few takeaways from my experience for those of you who may unfortunately find yourself in the same boat as I was. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, hooray for the moment! However, it could happen to you at any point of your career, and it is never too early to prepare yourself for a sudden job loss.
Negotiate your severance package
Don’t let panic take over your last day at the job. It is not the time to let your emotions run wild, because you need to make sure that you take what you’re entitled to from the company. While some would argue that you should have done it at the time of signing the offer letter, where severance terms are usually specified, some companies are willing to re-negotiate a different and often better package. In my case, the company was considerate of my visa situation and offered to keep me on payroll for two months with full benefits while I searched for a job, which was a tremendous help; it allowed me enough time to transition while not jeopardizing my immigration status.
Think about what you need to get through possibly three to four months of unemployment at the very least. There is no universal negotiation strategy as the amount of courtesy a company is willing to extend to a departing employee varies. However, requesting what you deserve while upholding your dignity isn’t as daunting as you may think.
Reach out to everyone, even people you’ve only spoken to once
The first thing I did after being laid off was make a list of people who are in the industry or potentially have connections at companies I wanted to apply to. Needless to say, the thought of reaching out to them, many of whom I’m barely know, was nerve wrecking. However, in a dire situation like this, I could not let hesitation get in the way of finding opportunities. From former colleagues, close friends, and casual acquaintance to people I’ve spoken to once at networking events, and even my college professors — I did not let one single person slip through. My college professor introduced me to a couple of senior executives at companies I was applying to. Although these referrals ultimately didn’t turn into an actual job offer, I was able to establish connections with successful alumni who are at the top of their fields. Reaching out politely never hurts, and you may be surprised at what a new connection may lead to.
Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from your current manager
When I was being told the bad news, my manager offered to give me reference even though he was the one who had to lay me off. Besides being pleasantly surprised, I realized that people are often willing to help you one way or the other if you have good relationships with them. Compared to former managers from a few years ago, your current manager is more likely to remember your work and as a result, their recommendations could be more effective.
Set a resume submission goal and stick to it
There are far too many articles out there that discourage job seekers from going the Internet submission route. While you should never rely solely on submitting resumes online, it is not a good idea to ignore the good old online application altogether.
Most interviews don’t turn into job offers in the end. While some may argue against it, I have found that job hunting is still a numbers game. When I was drafting my plan, I have set a goal of 25 applications per day at the minimum. The first week of being laid off was the hardest as interview emails didn’t come in immediately. Once I had built up a momentum, I started to see a gradual increase in interview requests. Over 90% of my 40+ interviews were a result of online applications. Of course, I have met folks who swore by referrals as they have seen the most success that way. The point I want to make is, do not slack on online application just because you have been frustrated at your response rate before. If you spend time refining your resume (and portfolio for creatives like me) and stick to a goal, you will hear back from recruiters who are equally eager to meet you.
Add LinkedIn connections like crazy
A colleague of mine once received multiple interview requests by networking virtually on LinkedIn, which inspired me to aggressively increase my connections from less than 500 to 2,000 within a few months. As the old saying goes, a little goes a long way. However, beware that LinkedIn has an algorithm that detects and bans an excessive amount of connection activities in a day. Make a habit to add connections daily and message them for help and advice. I am still very thankful for someone who kindly took 30 minutes of his time to speak with me on the phone after we connected on LinkedIn even though he has never met me in person.
As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Surviving a layoff at any point of your career takes a lot of planning, persistence and mental toughness. When you’re focused and strategic, opportunities will knock on your door.